A preview of sorts to 'Moondance'.

They aren't mine and I have no intention of ever claiming so...

'So I've decided to leave Atlantis…' Elizabeth Weir, fearless leader of the Lost City of Atlantis, frowns at her reflection and shakes her head. 'No. Too nonchalant. I'm leaving home, not the grocery store.'

She takes a deep breath, tries again.

'The IOA has decided that bringing in a military commander would be the best thing for Atlantis, especially with the multiple threats posed by hostiles in the Pegasus Galaxy.' This time, her frown is deeper, so much so that she sees lines in her forehead. She's getting old and it only adds to her current state of unhappiness. 'Too formal. It's like I'm writing a resignation later to my friends.'

She's about to try a third time when someone knocks on the door to her quarters and she's saved from her own good-bye speech. 'Come in,' she calls to the door and runs a weary hand through her unruly hair as it opens. To say she's surprised by her visitor is an understatement.

She was expecting Teyla for tea but is instead faced with John Sheppard.

In her room.


There have been other situations in her life where being alone with an attractive man in a room wasn't such a nerve-wracking ordeal, but for some reason John Sheppard brings out the girly side that she tries so hard to hide. It's…annoying.

She meets Teyla every other day for tea on the balcony of the Althosian woman's quarters. They discuss little more than their lives, past and present and, occasionally, future. Today is no different. The smell of Earl Grey greets her at the door to Teyla's balcony as they pass the threshold and walk out into the open air. Atlantis is in full autumnal splendor, though it's difficult to see with the mainland so far away. It's more the feel of the air – it's cooler and sharper.

'Were you ever married?' Elizabeth asks without really thinking about it. Teyla's hand trembles slightly but steadies almost immediately, the action so fast that Elizabeth wonders if she imagined it.

'I was betrothed, but he was taken during a culling and I did not have the heart to settle again.' She sips her tea and smiles very slightly. 'And you?'

Elizabeth smiles faintly. 'I was engaged. He left me while I was here, in Atlantis.'

Teyla is quiet for a moment and Elizabeth takes the time to reflect on her disastrous reunion with Simon. She's almost grateful when Teyla speaks again.

'Perhaps we should both be thankful for the possibility of second chances.'

Elizabeth can't be certain, but she thinks there's an innuendo hidden in that statement.

'John,' she says and forces a smile. 'What are you doing here?'

He surveys her room over her shoulder and when his eyes finally settle on hers, there's suspicion there. 'Were you talking to yourself?' he asks.

The smile relaxes just slightly. 'I was working on a speech.'

His left eyebrow rises. 'You're making a speech?'

Butterflies. She feels them every time he looks at her like this. She hates butterflies. 'At some point, yes.' He opens his mouth to comment but she beats him to it. 'Is there something I can do for you, Colonel, or are you just here to eavesdrop?'

The questions throws him off just enough to veer him off the path of her good-bye speech and she marvels at how easily distracted he is. He smiles slightly. 'I was wondering if you were hungry. Baker let Ronon into the kitchen and he's making some sort of Satedan chili. If the smell is any indication, the mess is going to be packed.'

She smiles at the imagery. 'Ronon in a kitchen. I'm fairly certain I have to see that.'

John laughs and stands back slightly so she can exit her room. His eyes linger on the space she's just left, at which point she remembers there's a suitcase lying open on her bed. A big suitcase.

'Why are you packing a suitcase?' he asks.

She pauses just outside her door and tries to very quickly come up with an explanation that doesn't sound like she's leaving forever. She's a diplomat; she's used to thinking on her feet.

Except when she's near John.

'Because I'm going back to Earth.'

So not the way she wanted to break the news to him, especially to him. Of all the people in Atlantis, she wanted to tell him in a way that wouldn't make it seem like she was being asked to leave. She wanted him to think that it was her decision because a part of her believes that if he thinks it's her decision, he'll be angry with her and not the new commander and he won't get himself killed.

Before she met John Sheppard, she thought self-sacrificing behavior was irrational. Now she's sacrificing herself and it seems more rational than anything else she's done in the past three years. Amazing how being light years away from 'home' can change one's perspective on things.

'What, for a vacation?' There's an undercurrent of panic in his voice and she's very afraid that they're both going to freak out in the hallway. When she doesn't say anything, his voice rises. 'That's a huge suitcase, Elizabeth. That's the suitcase you brought with you on the Daedalus the last time we hitched a ride home.'

With one quick motion and not a lot of thought she grabs a fistful of his black t-shirt and pushes him into her room. She follows him inside and the door shuts behind her.

She only hopes no one saw the exchange or the remaining two weeks of her tenure will be full of rumors that she only wishes were true.

The knock on her office door wakes her up just enough to realize that she should have gone to bed a day ago. She looks up and smiles at John's grin. 'To what do I own the pleasure?' she asks.

'I've come for a rematch.' He places a travel chess set on her desktop and spreads his hands wide. 'On your turf, even.'

She laughs lightly. 'What makes you think I'm in the mood for a rematch?'

He opens the box and begins to take the pieces out, immediately at home within her workspace. 'A little birdie told me that you were trash-talking my chess game.'

She quirks an eyebrow at him. 'A little birdie?'

'You'd be amazed at the rumors that run around this place.' He sits down across from her and turns the board so that the white pieces are facing her. 'For instance, did you know that we're apparently engaged in quite the intimate relationship?'

She moves a pawn forward and tries to keep the blushing to a bare minimum. 'Really?'

'It's the talk of the mess.' He moves a knight forward and looks up at her. 'You're blushing.'

She shakes her head. 'Don't flatter yourself.' She takes the knight and tries to look convincingly absorbed in the game. She doesn't miss the smile that passes his lips, nor does he make any effort to hide it. 'Your move, flyboy.'

'I've decided to turn control over to the military. Colonel Carter will be arriving in two weeks to take over command of Atlantis.'

She's been anticipating the look that crosses his face for the last month, ever since General Landry explained to her in simple English that the IOA wasn't impressed with her leadership of the Lost City and that Colonel Carter would be arriving to take over command.

John Sheppard is furious.

'Bullshit,' he says harshly and while it isn't the first time she's heard him curse, it's the first time she's ever heard him curse at her.

"John…' she warns, but cuts her off with a step toward her.

'The IOA pushed you out.'

This surprises her.

He's furious, but apparently he isn't furious at her.

'Why would you say that?' she asks, mostly because she's too stunned to say anything else and because just standing there, in the middle of her room, with a facial expression reminiscent of a dead fish, isn't productive.

He looks at her with familiar intensity. 'I know you too well to believe that you'd ever leave this place voluntarily. You eat, sleep, and breathe Atlantis, Elizabeth. The only way you'd turn over command is if you were being forced to…by the IOA.'

She doesn't have to say anything for him to know that he's right and she wishes she were better at hiding her emotions behind an expression of indifference. 'I'm sorry…' she offers and he deflates like a balloon. His anger dissolves and puddles on the floor around him. He looks defeated, looks like how she feels, and he lowers himself onto her couch, leans his head back and stares at the ceiling.

'There are 493 tiles on my bedroom ceiling,' he tells her over coffee one morning.

She pauses with her coffee cup almost to her mouth. 'How do you know that?'

He smirks. 'I counted. Turns out War & Peace is one boring book.'

'You told me it was your decision so I wouldn't blame the new commander, so I wouldn't go out and do something stupid and end up getting myself killed.'

He really does know her too well.

Her feet propel her forward and she sinks onto the couch next to him, close enough to feel the heat radiating off him but not close enough to touch him. They've lived this way for three years – side by side with a good amount of distance between them. As she stares at the suitcase on her bed, the trinkets she's accumulated over three years, she wishes she hadn't pushed him away so often. She wishes she had let down her guard a little more.

'I don't want to leave this place,' she says quietly. 'I've picked up too much stuff over the years. I don't think it's all going to fit in that thing.'

The smile he gives her is tight and small, but it's a smile nonetheless. 'You could always come back for some of it.'

'Maybe eventually. Think you could store a couple of the bigger things in your quarters?'

He shrugs. 'I guess so. Might be a little tight, what with all the junk I've already got in there.'

She tries not to smile. 'I don't think your Johnny Cash poster will mind the company.'

'I was more worried about the guitar. It's kind of space-possessive.'

They sit in silence for what seems like an eternity. There are things she wants to say to him but now isn't the time. She doesn't know if there will ever be a right time and she's content to keep her words bottled up, but she can't help saying the one thing that won't sit quietly.

'I'm going to miss you,' she says very softly. 'All of you.'

In a gesture she's never seen from him before, he reaches out and tucks an errant curl behind her ear, his hand lingering on her cheek very slightly. When he smiles, it is a little more relaxed than before.

'I'm going to miss you, too.' He pulls his hand away, stands, and offers to pull her up. 'Come on. Ronon's chili awaits.'

She takes his hand and he pulls her up and onto her feet. 'Why do I have a feeling this is going to go badly?'

'Because it's Ronon.'

'Where did you get the knife you used to cut the bindings?' she asks the burly man before her as she reads over John's report.

Ronon's grin is feral and she finds herself returning it without really meaning to. 'I keep a couple in my hair.'

'Funny,' she says, 'I had a friend in college that did the same thing.'

'Knives?' John asks.

'Bobby pins. She was constantly getting locked out of her dorm room.'

'My kind of woman,' Ronon says.

She doesn't say it, but she's fairly certain that Alex was his kind of woman.

It's a simple answer, but it sums up not only the burly Satedan but also the other members of John's team. They are who they are and she'll miss them all.

She can't stop the little girly voice in the back of head from saying, But I'll miss John the most, nor is she inclined to do so anyway.

For once, it's right.